Learning the Local Language: Do You Need to and How?

Acquiring a second citizenship or a new residence could be an opportunity to learn a new language, grow your brain and become a true global citizen. Whether you are moving to another country for pleasure or business, this article looks at how and why learn a new language…

Whether you are moving to another country for pleasure or business, the obvious but often overlooked question is “should you learn the local language?”

English is one of the most commonly used languages across the world. Whilst this can be helpful when living abroad, in some situations knowing the country’s language can be beneficial.

Positive Aspects

Business and Career Prospects

Employers seeing ‘fluent in x language’ will be more interested in your application than those without. According to The Guardian 38% of British citizens are bilingual compared to 56% of Europeans.

Despite this not making the biggest difference in the UK, when you move abroad, knowing the local language can have a significant impact on your ability to get a job. If you have yet to find employment, being able to read job adverts, communicate fluently with your interviewer and simply add it to your CV will all boost your employability status.

On the other hand, if you have moved abroad with a job already in place (or a business opportunity), you can still benefit from learning the local language. Not all of your co-workers / business partners will necessarily speak English. These are people you will work with every day so it helps to be able to get along together. Also consider whether your job requires you to communicate with the public or people outside the business.

Making new friends

Whether you are living abroad for business or pleasure, it is nice to be able to get to know the people you are living nearby.

Your neighbours and the people living nearby are usually the first people you will get to know once you’ve moved in. Inviting them over and getting to know one another will be a lot easier if there’s a common language between you.

By talking with them you’ll get to know the accents and gestures typical of the local language which can be a gentler way of learning than using a Dictionary. It will also be a good step towards starting your new life abroad.

Making yourself understood

No matter which country in the world you are living in, we all of us have similar requirements for living. Situations where communication becomes important can range from the following:


Upon moving to your chosen country you will need to either sign up with a GP Surgery or, if you become ill, need to go to a Doctor or hospital. In these situations it is vital to be able to know what it is going on around you and understand the information given to you. Also being able to describe your symptoms if you are unwell is useful for better understanding.


Other less extreme situations are everyday occurrences such as going shopping for food. Knowing the local language will help you understand the prices – or haggle – as well as asking for assistance.


Activities such as going the theatre or cinema require you to ask for tickets or inquire about timings. Communication and understanding influence a lot of our daily activates. When you are in a foreign country you realise how important it is just to know the basics of the local language in order to get by.

Integrating into the culture

No matter whether you are living in a country for business or pleasure, you will be spending a period of time there. In this time you will need to go t your local market or corner shop regularly, see the same people at work or possibly the same waiter at the local cafe.

Whatever period of time you’re planning to stay in your chosen country, what makes your stay successful will be embracing the local culture. Aspects of this can include:

  • Local events
  • Cultural or religious festivals
  • Business or leisure conventions

Any of these activates can benefits you stay in a country but all of them will be improved by knowing the local language.


A lot has been said on how your brain can benefit from learning a second language. However, research suggests that in many cases it can help multitasking and concentration. There are even cases that suggest the brain can grow bigger when you learn another language.

Negative Aspects


Estimates vary depending on who you ask, but one thing that is for sure is that it takes many hours of practise to become conversationally fluent in a language.
If you are conducting business abroad, you can find yourself with little time to yourself. At the end of a long day it can be very uninviting to sit down and teach yourself a new language.


Cities have a varied population of different nationalities and so the local language might not be the one most commonly spoken. Also in a large number of businesses – both local and international – again the local language might not be the main one used with cliental.

Excluding English the top languages of usefulness in business are deemed to be:

  • Mandarin Chinese
  • French
  • Arabic
  • Spanish

Although of course the most useful language for you depends a lot on where you are living and who you are working with!

Ways of learning

In general the pros of learning the local language outweigh the cons. Even if they don’t speak it where you work, the chances are a foreign language of some sort will be needed.

There are a few ways to learn a language and most of them with minimum costs.


One of the benefits to spending money on a tutor is that you will be taught by a professional, most likely a local of the country. Benefits include

  • Structured lessons planned for you rather than by you
  • Theory of the grammar and tenses explained
  • Encourages you to learn through deadlines and the fact you are not left to your own devices

Online courses

There are a number of online courses available. Websites like Open Culture provide links to courses for a variety of commonly used languages.

Duolingo is one of the most commonly used programmes, largely because it is free of charge and covers the most popular languages. It also provides short and simple activities rather than extensive lessons.

Teach Yourself

In some cases, it can be better to teach yourself the local language. This can help if you have a busy schedule, as you will be able to chose when and how you learn, whether that be setting a few hours aside at the end of the day or as an on the go basis.

The best way I have found to learn a new language quickly is to focus on learning as many words as possible (using tools such as Anki) and then just start using them by speaking to people! Once you have the vocabulary it’s amazing how fast the grammar slots into place.

Here are some great ways to grow your vocabulary:

  • Books from authors in your chosen country
  • Television programmes and films
  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Adverts
  • Dictionary


Depending on your reason for being abroad and for how long are staying, you may find it helpful to learn the local language. As well as being helpful at the time, any future business in that country will be helped by everyone being able to communicate.

If you do decide to learn the local language, there are a number of ways to go about it. As well learning yourself, it can also be educational for your children if you decide to bring them with you.

It would seem that the benefits of learning the language outweigh the difficulties, so if you do find you have the time, why not?

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